Personnel: Jesse Malin (vocals, acoustic guitar); Ryan Adams (electric guitar, keyboards, background vocals): Richard Fortus, Esko (guitar); Knox (cello); Joe McGinty (piano, Wurlitzer piano, Hammond B-3 organ); Johnny Piasano (bass, upright bass, background vocals); Fil Izler (bass); Paul Garisto (drums); Toby Dammit (percussion); Melissa Auf Der Maur (background vocals).
Recorded at Loho Studios, New York, New York.
Jesse Malin has come a long way from his glam rock heyday of fronting D Generation, and his solo debut, The Fine Art of Self Destruction, is an impressive look at Malin's musical maturation. He's a crooner, an Americana caterwaul, and a picaro of his native New York City, but a lonesome one at that. The Fine Art of Self Destruction displays a hearty mix of bittersweet alt-country ("Queen of the Underworld") and ballsy roots rock ("Wendy"), but the album is fully supported with a punk rock edge that Malin's most familiar with. Having ex-Whiskeytown frontman Ryan Adams in the production seat is a great fit, for both he and Malin's love-sucker hearts dance around the soft-hued beauty of each song. One might sense a slight hesitation in Malin's presentation, but it's not distracting. Malin's flight-or-fight theme on The Fine Art of Self Destruction is what makes this album an enjoyable introduction. He sifts through personal confusion on all different levels, and Adams has captured Malin's most intimate moments. "Almost Grown," layered with candied guitar licks, recounts being a child of divorce, while "Xmas" is a bit more angelic with its lush string arrangements. Those tender years of being a kid are hell, and Malin isn't afraid in reminding all of his listeners that time shapes one's character as well, and that's what The Fine Art of Self Destruction is about: regardless of where your home is, find your focus and don't get lost. In "Cigarettes and Violets," Malin warbles: "Messed up like a prizefight/At least you could have tried/Messed up like the system/You used to call a sin," and it's so raw you can tell Malin's heart is breaking and mending ten times over. There's no regret here, but Malin makes it alright to talk about what could have happened. He's done an intricate, stunning job. ~ MacKenzie Wilson
Rolling Stone (3/20/03, p.67) - 3 stars out of 5 - "...Malin's Gothamized high-mountain whine makes you care about these stories of bad childhoods, old girlfriends and disintegrating bohemias..."
Entertainment Weekly (2/7/03, p.82) - "...Malin has the heart - and the tunes - to pull off the tattered troubadour trip. Meet the Springsteen of Avenue D..." - Rating: B+
Uncut (1/03, p.95) - Ranked #20 in Uncut's "100 Best Albums of the Year" - "...It's everything you could ever want from a modern rock record. The find of the year..."
CMJ (2/3/03, p.6) - "...An album of deeply emotive and reflective alt-country...This is an album that, through an unexpected approach, perfectly captures what it's like to live in the Big Apple in the 21st century..."
Mojo (Publisher) - 4 stars out of 5 -- "Malin's vocals are well suited to an acoustic set-up."